Yemen has the poorest water resources, says official [Archives:2006/965/Local News]

July 20 2006

Amel Ariqi
SANA'A, July 19 ) “Yemen is suffering real water crisis” stated an official in the Yemeni Ministry of Water and Environment yesterday.

The Chairman of the Technical Secretariat for Water Supply and Sanitation Sector Eng. Anwer Saholy confirmed that water quantity in Yemen is only 10 percent of the per capita share in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region and less than 2 percent of the international average and that makes Yemen one of the poorest countries in the world regarding water.

He added that this water crisis will be more dangerous in the future with increasing population and accelerating demands from the agricultural and industrial sectors. He confirmed that water governance needs to be significantly improved during the coming years to meet the country's future water and wastewater management requirements.

This statement came yesterday in the press conference for the international conference: 'Water Governance in the MENA Region: The Current Situation'. According to Saholy this conference is a significant event, gathering water experts and involving organizations from different countries to exchange experiences and skills to evaluate and solve the water crisis in the region.

Deputy Minister for Water and Environment Dr. Mohammed Al-Hamdi agreed with Saholy, adding that the main challenges now facing Yemen are how best to develop management and technical capacities to implement the water strategy promptly and find the necessary investment from national and international sources.

Al-Hamdi reaffirmed the importance of capacity building in the water sector. “Some may limit capacity building only to training, but this is part of the reality. Therefore, I would like to remove such confusion by stating that training is only one part of an integrated system of capacity building. The system incorporates all ways and means to promote efficient performance, through creating better a working environment, performance based an incentive system and developing the appropriate tools to implement the knowledge and skills acquired through training,” he explained

According to Al-Hamdi the national water strategy clearly states that the country suffers from scarcity of human resources as well as water resources. “That is why capacity building and institutional development in the water sector needs special attention. Although the national strategy adopts this approach, we lack the adequate funds to implement many of those programs,” he said.

Al-Hamdi expressed that the donor community have shown special interest in this field. “They provide support through certain components within the infrastructure projects or through the institutional support projects as is the case with the GTZ and InWEnt (Capacity Building International) program which aims at upgrading the abilities and skills of staff of different levels – both middle and lower management in administrative, financial and technical fields,” he said.

Prof. Asit K.Biswas, from Third World Center for Water Management confirmed that Yemen, like other countries in the MENA region, is undergoing a water shortage. This is not because of the lack of natural water resources but because of the lack of proper management of these resources.

Ms. Alexandra Pres, a member of the InWent program claimed that this conference, which was organized by Inwent and the Arab Council supported by GTZ, and hosted by the Yemeni Ministry of Water and Environment, was attended by more than 50 leading experts and government representatives in the field of water governance from more than ten countries and international institutions. They gathered for this five-day international conference to analyze the opportunities and challenges for national and regional water governance and reform processes and associated capacity building needs.

She pointed out that water resources are extremely scarce in the MENA Region and the water problems are predominantly related to governance and management shortcomings. She added that human resources shortcomings are a key part of the water scarcity problem. Therefore, education, capacity building, training and organizational development constitute a crucial cornerstone for the development of the water sector in the MENA region.

Worth mentioning is that this conference, which will be concluded today, is part of a four-year capacity building program in the MENA region's water sector, formulated by InWEnt on behalf of the Germany Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development. Along with its regional partner, the Arab Water Council, the program is focusing on eight countries: Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Palestine, Jordan, Syria and Yemen. The second conference, entitled, 'Water Governance in the MENA Region: Critical Issues and the Way Forward', will be held in Cairo, Egypt in 2007, while the third will be held in 2008 in Zaragoza, Spain under the title, 'Water Future up to 2025 for the MENA Region'.